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Zowe and Open Mainframe Project in the Nordics!

By | July 5, 2023

Being an Open Mainframe Project Ambassador and Zowe committer, I’m always keen to share news about the OMP with users, and between May 23-25th I was lucky enough to attend the Guide Share Europe (GSE) Nordics region in Norway’s beautiful city of Oslo.   Not only did I get to present on all things going on in Zoweland, but I attended some fantastic sessions to hear from super smart and wonderful mainframers about what they’re up to.

Germanas Samrickis, a lecturer at Vilinius university in Lithuania, gave a fantastic presentation “Growing a new generation of Mainframers” during which he talked about his experiences as an educator teaching classes to computer science students.  He has observed that when his classes included tools like the Zowe Explorer plugin for Visual Studio Code, more people in the faculty signed up and completed the module.  This was compared to beforehand when students had been taught their mainframe skills using only 3270 emulators.  Germanas summed this up with the quote “Zowe – the way forward” !  On his lessons learned he also summarized “Inclusion of open-source tools sped up learning process”

There is an on-going debate about whether new mainframers should be taught using 3270 emulators and traditional commands, and the consensus seems to be that at some point you’re going to need to know how to use TSO and drive an ISPF panel (especially if you want a career as a system programmer), but for developers who are developing or maintaining code with an automated CI/CD pipeline behind them, you may be OK with just using VS Code.  On top of that, it’s makes the mainframe more familiar to new to Z folks who otherwise may find the transition from GUI to 3270 jarring and off putting. Keeping students in an IDE environment they’re already comfortable with makes learning mainframe skills more intuitive and, importantly, faster !!!.

In my own session “Wowee it’s Zowe” some customers asked me advanced questions about high availability, building custom plugins, creating DevOps pipelines, while others were wanting to know how to get started on their Zowe journey.  This always reminds me that while it’s fun to push the boundaries of Zowe for advanced users and showcase it running at scale in enterprise environments, its important to always connect with new users who are finding their way around the Zowe landscape.  A piece of great feedback I got is that users enjoy the support and help they are getting through the slack workspace, the depth of experts writing blogs on, and the six week frequency of releases that address defects and introduce new functionality.

My favorite session of the conference was given by Michelle Harris from Macro4 presenting “Modernizing Application Testing:  our experience with Galasa”.   As a software vendor they have a number of mainframe products they needed to test manually before each release to ensure no functional regression.  After Michelle had heard about Galasa at last year’s Nordic GSE in Sweden, she began to use it to create automated scripts from their existing test cases.  Michelle showed how this meant they were able to deliver software more reliability with fewer manual steps, a process often called “Shift left testing” where test automation early in a delivery pipeline improves release efficiency.  The timing of Michelle’s talk was perfect because just a few weeks prior to the GSE conference the Open Mainframe Project voted to accept Galasa as a new top level incubator project !!!!  I snapped a photo of Michelle together with Will Yates, who is the technical Lead of Galasa.

To round out the conference Isabel Arnold gave a closing keynote “Stand-up and deliver – How the mainframe can learn from comedy”.   As well as being an IBM Technical Advisor and Innovation Lead in the IBM Crypto Competence Centre, Isabel also is a stand-up comic !  The talk covered areas such as how trying out jokes on a friendly audience before trying them on paying customers is similar to testing software in staging environments prior to production deployment.  Likewise the importance of giving up on jokes that aren’t funny instead of clinging onto them because you as the comedienne like them, when your audience doesn’t, is analagous similar to agile software development and the mantra of “fail fast, fail often”.

The best joke of the night:  “Where do you go to buy a new mainframe ?”.  Answer:  “New-Z-Land” !!!

On Isabel’s closing slide she talked about how despite being born 60 years ago as a computing platform, the IBM Z mainframe has evolved to remain the backbone of mission critical transaction workloads worldwide.  To illustrate how we can still use old and new technologies together Isabel showed her laptop running the Zowe Desktop’s 3270 emulator alongside the JES Explorer plugin.   All of the old with all of the new !

Looking forward to next year’s GSE Nordics in Copenhagen and the opportunity to be part of such an amazing community of users who are enjoying using The Open Mainframe Project’s Zowe technology.